05/20/2004 12:00AM

Peter Pan sets up for Master David


NEW YORK - There must be some sort of undefinable distinction to getting clobbered by the horse who has an excellent chance of becoming only the 12th American Triple Crown winner. But that is what the connections of some horses in Saturday's $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park may be bargaining for as they hope to use the race as a springboard to a meeting with Smarty Jones in the June 5 Belmont Stakes.

The Peter Pan has for years been a serviceable local stepping-stone to the Belmont. The most recent successful example was Lemon Drop Kid in 1999, who came off a third-place finish in the Peter Pan to upset the Belmont at 29-1 and deny the unlucky Charismatic the Triple Crown.

Perhaps the example that those participating in this year's renewal of the Peter Pan are hanging their hats on is Coastal. In 1979, Coastal followed a victory in the Peter Pan with a score in the Belmont over Spectacular Bid, whom many regard as the best horse ever to be foiled in the last leg of the Triple Crown.

There are only three other stakes on the entire continent Saturday with six-figure purses. They are the Winning Colors at Churchill Downs, and the Will Rogers at Hollywood Park, each worth $100,000, and the $150,000 Marine at Woodbine.

Given the light schedule, this is a good week to consider some smaller stakes that might otherwise fail to make the Weekend Warrior cut.

Peter Pan

Purge is liable to be overbet here after chasing Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones in his last two. Friends Lake, winner of the painfully slow Florida Derby, was overbet in his dismal Kentucky Derby effort, and may be overbet again. This may actually help make for a decent price for Master David, whom I project as a perfect trip winner.

Master David didn't do any running when 12th in the Kentucky Derby, but his two races before that, a near miss to Tapit in the Wood Memorial, and a win over Borrego in the Sham, were solid performances. Saturday, he figures to be perfectly set up for a win laying fourth early off a pace disputed by Purge and Sinister G, and pressed by the overmatched Wild Wadi.

Ben Cohen

Last Friday at Pimlico, I was beaten in the last leg of a pick four by a gelding named Nortouch who, despite uninspiring form on both turf and dirt, and recent inactivity, looked like he could have run through brick walls as he won a five-furlong turf sprint in his first start for trainer Ben Feliciano Jr. by more than six lengths in course-record time.

Feliciano has one in this race named Crossing Point, and after what I saw last week, I don't need to know anything else except which way the betting windows are. It is, however, gravy that Crossing Point is a speedy, accomplished stakes-winning sprinter in the mid-Atlantic region, already giving him a big head start on Nortouch. The fact that Crossing Point did nothing in his only previous attempt on turf does not concern me, not with Feliciano involved. Actually, I'm hoping that helps his price.

Simply Majestic

As equipment changes go, blinkers on usually has a profound impact on performance. And for me, blinkers on is most meaningful in situations like this one, where Gin Rummy Champ runs in a two-turn turf race for 3-year-olds.

Despite the strong form of probable favorite Capias, Gin Rummy Champ is certainly good enough to win this race, what with two wins and three close seconds from six starts on grass, and steadily improving Beyer Figures. Whether Gin Rummy Champ wants to win is another matter. Narrow misses in his last three starts suggest hanging tendencies. But blinkers often improve horses like Gin Rummy Champ by making them focus, and I think the change will make a winner out of him here.